Music can be evocative; a forgotten tune can take you back to a particular time and can trigger memories in a very particular way. Sleep Dog’s production The Bullet and The Bass Trombone is delivered in a fairly matter of fact way by the event’s narrator but emotional impact is provided by the use of soundscape of sound and snippets of speech.
The staging is simple but incredibly effective with the stage littered with lit music stands representing the players in a touring orchestra who were caught up in military coup in a far off country. The story of the dramatic event is told by the orchestra’s composer Timothy X Atack who builds the narration through the use of fragments of sound on his laptop and with a beautiful haunting score played live on a synthesizer.
Timothy introduces us to the members of the orchestra by moving in and around the empty stands and the absence of the players on the stage leaves a haunting impression as you are left to wander whether they made it out of the situation alive. Through the narrator’s description of the players and via the use of audio clips – a diary transcript, recovered sound from a mobile phone, a tour guide – we build up a visual representation of the people and events which took place on the ill-fated excursion.
The production is part performance art but for all its evocative use of fragmented sound clips the show never forgets it is telling a story., so without ever seeing the characters you still are left to care for their fate and whether they made it out of the volatile situation. The first half of the show builds slowly but then within the second act all the disjointed pieces of the story come together to give a full picture of what happened.
The Bullet and The Bass Trombone isn’t a production with a straight-forward narrative construct where you can sit back and simply watch events happen, instead it is theatre which requires you to use your senses – most specifically your hearing. With Timothy X Atack’s low-key delivery and mastery of building narrative through sound I found myself drawn into the world he and director Tanuja Amarasuriya had created, so when the narrator closes his laptop at the end of the show and silence falls it felt like I really knew the absent musicians behind the empty music stands.